Monday, July 25, 2016

lessons in abstraction ...

Before you speak consider: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it an improvement over silence?

 I am not a quiet person and rarely am I silent. But these past few months I have found my mouth starting to open or my fingers on the keyboard and then suddenly poof! I sit back and sink back into my thoughts, my daydream, my internal monologue.

I feel rudderless, which is not unusual for me in the summer months. Heat and I have never coexisted happily together and the lack of structure that happens when school is on break fuels my dazed meandering. I think this is okay, this is natural, this is how I spiral through my life learning, testing, integrating, evolving. The process of feeding my roots isn't flashy, isn't a grand gesture but quiet and slow moving. Often I don't even realize this is what I am doing ... this nourishing my heart and soul. 


It is getting up every morning early before the temperature rises and spending time in my garden in prayer. Connecting with the life around me and which I am a part of and feeding gratitude, feeding reverence and joy.

It is trying on new ways of creating, remembering play and curiosity are core values for how I wish to show up in this life. With that in mind, I signed up for a class on abstraction by Wendy Brightbill enticingly called Letting Go: An Exploration of Abstract Painting offered through Jeanne Oliver's wonderful platform for online art classes. (Seriously, if art videos are your kind of porn, the offerings on this site abound with hours of video content; artworks being birthed before my eyes always leaves me breathless and eager for more!

I figured my lack of coherent thoughts, ideas, projects is a perfect state in which to steep myself in abstract painting, right?  The more I thought about it, the more abstraction seemed perfect for me as my life right now feels diffused, random, and open to multiple interpretations.

I have quickly discovered the fly in the ointment ... I am more grounded than I had previously understood. Now, to be fair, I have only a handful of painting sessions under my belt and quality of ease in Ms. Brightbill's creations (let go! play with colors, shapes, patterns and  have fun!) is definitely the result of much practice, more practice and heaping doses of practice and commitment to this process. 

But what draws me into deep engagement is examining the patterning in the feathers of a hawk's wing or the subtly of colors in a snowy owl's plumage.  While I admire the variety, the beauty, the poetic display of colors, lines, and forms in an abstract piece ultimately my love is for art that assists me in opening wide my eyes to life around me rather than life within me. What fascinates me is the natural world around me and understanding myself within that creative pattern and play. 

Oh, I will keep on with abstraction. I know there is something there for me to learn and use. And the practice is not wasted as I am crafting cards out of my experiments. 

On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear. 
Bhagavad Gita 2:40, translation by Eknath Easwaran)

It comes back to intention, always. What drives me to pick up my pencil or paintbrush and hazhard to create chaotic messes? Lovely images are nice, they can be inspiring and uplifting but that will not sustain me through the frustrations of quieting my monkey mind and surrendering to the process of discovery and creating. What does keep me returning are the aha moments of seeing with my heart and understanding in my gut and in my bones.  

Trying on abstraction, I realize is my true passion and gift: beholding, understanding and celebrating the artistry of mama Earth and her infinitely inventive creations. Abstraction could offer me a process to express  that wonderment in ways that bypass representation. I don't know. I may not get there. But rather than focus upon it as a goal, I embrace my attempts as yet another way I can meander into new places of knowing, connection and wonder.

I think it's so foolish for people to want to be happy. Happy is so momentary -- you're happy for an instant and then you start thinking again. Interest is the most important thing in life; happiness is temporary, but interest is continuous.

I can't live where I want to, I can't go where I want to go, I can't do what I want to, I can't even say what I want to. I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to.
- Georgia O'Keeffe 

[I recently was contacted by an online art education and image database resource, Artsy, and asked to introduce their site here for interested readers. Having worked for over a decade as a Slide Librarian, I can truly appreciate the mission of Artsy: "We strive to make all of the world's art accessible to anyone online." In addition to a growing database of artwork, there are articles, exhibition listings, suggested contemporary artists based upon your search and other educational resources which make browsing the site a wonderful down the rabbit hole experience for any art lover.  Seeking some creative juice, I landed on their Georgia O'Keeffe page and from there discovered a painter new and very relevant to me, Eleanor Hubbard. Happy inspiration hunting!]



  1. i so love how your mind works. and your dedication to your art practice is moste humbling. big love to you!! xoxoxo

  2. I think it's hard to find your ground sometimes in these long dog days of summer, whether you work from the home or outside the home! I like that you are making cards out of your abstractions! Enjoy the class.

  3. I love your process of exploring. As you know, I dive into those details and intricacies that define our mama pacha and all her glory. Stunning RTH portrait! He's my vision guide. xoxo